Barcelona took a giant step towards a second Champions League final in three seasons as two pieces of Lionel Messi magic in the final 15 minutes, were enough to see off Real Madrid in an ill-tempered game.
The first-half was everything that football is not. Real Madrid, as the home side, played Ronaldo as the lone striker and looked like they would settle for a 0-0 draw from the first whistle.
Barcelona on the other hand were surrounding the referee after every tackle, and going down as if they had been shot at the slightest bit of contact. For a team that was a month ago was being discussed as the best ever, it was unsightly.
Barca create the best two goalscoring chances in the first half. First David Villa came close to finding the net again after stealing in from the right to send a shot flying just past Casillas’s far post from the edge of the area. Then Messi slipped a great ball through Xavi whose shot was well saved by Casillas.
As the two teams went down the tunnel at half-time a shoving match broke out that resulted in Barcelona’s reserve goalkeeper José Pinto being given a red card.
This Champions League semi-final swung in Barcelona’s favor in the 61st minute when Pepe was shown a straight red card for a high challenge on Daniel Alves. It was a bookable offense, but not worthy of a straight red. Unfortunately, the 8 Barcelona players that surrounded the referee after the tackle influenced the decision.
Pepe’s red card was the fourth consecutive game that Real Madrid have had a player sent off against Barcelona. Mourinho could not believe the decision and he was sent to the stands for his protests.
With the extra man, it was only a matter of time before Barcelona got the valuable away goal that they were seeking. Afellay beat Marcelo for speed on the right and his cross was steered in at the near post for Messi’s tenth goal in this season’s competition.
Three minutes later, Messi all but ended this tie when he took a pass from Busquets just inside the Madrid half and racing past four defenders before slotting the ball past Casillas.